President Gibson and four other women stand next to ChicagoCHEC signage

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

The Chicago Cancer Health Equity Collaborative (ChicagoCHEC) has announced the details of its 5th Annual Community Forum. This year’s theme is Addressing Cancer Together During COVID-19: The ChicagoCHEC Partnership.

The forum will take place virtually from 11 a.m-1 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 17, and Friday, Sept. 18, via Zoom. There will be various presentations on both days, and information will be provided in English, Spanish and American Sign Language (ASL). This event is free and open to the public.

ChicagoCHEC is a National Cancer Institute comprehensive cancer partnership led by the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University, Northeastern Illinois University, and the University of Illinois at Chicago. ChicagoCHEC’s mission is to advance cancer health equity through meaningful scientific discovery, education, training and community engagement.

“Time goes fast, and five years ago when I attended the initial announcement of the NIH funding for the collaboration of Chicago institutions to focus on cancer equity, as a clinician and a respected community advocate, this presented an opportunity to serve, watch, participate and keep our leaders, researchers and academia in check,” said Joanne Glenn, ChicagoCHEC Community Steering Committee (CSC) co-chair and founder of the W.O.T. Foundation, Inc. “It was an opportunity, as the late great John Lewis stated, for ‘good trouble,’ meaning, if the community was not at the table, it would be concerning. To fast forward, job well done, CHEC.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has added another layer of challenges to fighting cancer, CSC co-chair Henrietta Barcelo said.

“Cancer doesn’t stop during COVID-19,” she said. “It keeps hiding, attacking, growing in our bodies. We have to keep up on cancer health for our mothers, fathers, children, tías, tíos y abuelos and arm ourselves with information and resources that speak our languages and help us fight cancer when it strikes.”

Interested participants in ChicagoCHEC’s community forum may register online.

“Since its inception I have found the Community Forum has been a valuable tool for educating diverse populations that may not have been served before,” said Rosemarie Rogers, CSC member for ChicagoCHEC. “It has provided culturally appropriate materials and given the attendees the opportunity to communicate and interact in a safe environment.”

Carmen Velasquez, CSC member and founder of Alivio Medical Center, calls ChicagoCHEC’s forum “incredible” for “on-the-ground” sharing among those who have or had cancer and those who have been touched by cancer through their families and extended families.

“COVID-19 has ravaged our communities and has worsened all types of health inequities, but especially those in cancer,” said Melissa Simon, M.D., George H. Gardner Professor of Clinical Gynecology of the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and Principal Investigator of ChicagoCHEC. “This year our annual Community Forum is going to tackle the intersection of inequities, cancer and COVID-19 in the hopes that we can help lift the needs of our communities and find on-the-ground solutions to respond.”

Since 2015, ChicagoCHEC’s mission has been to advance cancer health equity through meaningful scientific discovery, education, training and community engagement. This year’s community forum also celebrates five years of advancing cancer health equity.

“The cancer health disparities we see in Chicago stand as a clear call to action,” said Marian Fitzgibbon, Principal Investigator on the ChicagoCHEC grant and Associate Director of Cancer Prevention and Control at the University of Illinois Cancer Center. “Only by working together and through authentic engagement can we create meaningful change and reduce the unequal share of the cancer burden experienced by our underserved communities.”

“ChicagoCHEC has made great strides in reducing cancer health inequities by creating new educational and research opportunities for students from across the City of Chicago,” said Christina Ciecierski, Principal Investigator of ChicagoCHEC and Professor of Economics at Northeastern Illinois University.

“Only through partnership and engagement with our city’s underserved can we foster meaningful cancer research, education and training that appropriately addresses health equity issues,” said Lidia Filus, Principal Investigator of ChicagoCHEC and Professor and Chair of Mathematics of Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU). “By serving the most diverse populations of students, NEIU is well-positioned to reach out to these communities and encourage them to actively participate and engage in this partnership.”

“The work of Chicago CHEC embodies Angela Davis’ famous quote: ‘I no longer accept the things I can’t change and am changing the things I can’t accept,’” said Joseph Feinglass, Principal Investigator of ChicagoCHEC and Research Professor of Medicine at Northwestern University.